Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bunsby Birthday

After Columbia Cove we spent two nights in the Bunsby's, a world-class kayaking and sailboat destination. On our first afternoon we paddled around in our foulies exploring the islands that surrounded us. We stopped on a little white sand beach where I foraged for food. I found a beautiful patch of pretty little nodding onions. Unbeknownst to me, Jason and Aaron were scurrying around on the beach catching tiny little crabs and stuffing them into their pockets with plans to add them to my wild stir-fry. We stopped at another island where I gathered sea asparagus and arrow grass. Back at the boat I made a delicious stir-fry accompanied by lentil soup. Yum, I'm loving the gathering wild food thing.

The next day Jason had the best Bunsby birthday ever. He awoke to sunshine, glorious sunshine and started the day with yoga on the foredeck. I packed a lunch and we headed out in the kayaks to explore. Jason had his eyes set on an sea stack-ful island with hopes of climbing one for a view. We paddled through swells and lovely sunshine past watchful sea otters to Jason's birthday island and landed on a big boulder beach. We awkwardly drug our kayaks as high as we could before gathering some more nodding onions. After assessing all of the sea stacks we picked the one that looked the best and scrambled to the top. Just as we had hoped it had glorious ocean views. We unpacked our picnic lunch and ate, soaking up the sunshine (yes, I'm mentioning the sunshine again because we have really missed it) as blue-green water swirled and churned through the rocks below.

When we had our fill, we retraced our steps back to the kayaks and slowly paddled back to the boat for refreshing swim. Afterwards we lounged around with crackers, cheese and a birthday beer, drying ourselves out on the teak of the foredeck. Jason then grabbed a book and climbed into his birthday hammock while I paddled to the nearest island to collect more arrow grass and sea asparagus. For dinner, we had a very special treat of pork chops along with potatoes fried up with the day's wild harvest. We finished dinner with a chorus of happy birthday singing and a moist chocolate stout cake. Yum! We then sat down around the table to play Dominant Species, the board game we had gotten him, and the day ended with a glorious sunset. With its beautiful sunsets, exposure to open swells and views of crashing waves on rocky islets, mountains towering in the background, we decided this was the prettiest anchorage of the entire trip. Having sunshine didn't hurt either :). Happy birthday Jason!

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Around Brooks Peninsula

After an awesome stay in Sea Otter Cove we had a 20-30 knot wind sail downwind through six foot waves to Klaskish Basin where we shared the anchorage with both boats we had seen in Sea Otter. We spent two rainy nights trying to listen to the broken radio weather report on our VHF and staging to go around the dreaded Brooks Peninsula. We had a full day of steady, soggy rain. We still managed to rouse ourselves from the boat to paddle up the Klaskish River through the pouring rain and blustery wind. I have only a few iPhone photos to document the day. We paddled up tiny fingers where grass towered over our heads and I secretly worried about startling a bear. We plucked salmon berries from low-hanging branches and watched ripples dance across the water with each down-draft that gusted from the steep mountains surrounding us. Along the way I gathered bladderwrack seaweed which I boiled when I got back to the boat to make a gooey facial mask Nikki had told me about. I've never done a facial before so I'm not entirely sure I got it right but it was fun to try.

The following morning we compared notes from the staticky radio report with our anchorage buddy before setting out. Winds were predicted to be light in the morning allowing us a window of opportunity to jump around the Brooks before the winds shifted to a southeast slog fest. We decided the weather looked good and we ventured out into open ocean. It was one of those super beautiful, moody mornings with clouds caught in the mountains and the ocean shimmering like liquid mercury. We watched puffins float by as Solander Island looked ominous and foreboding in the distance. Winds were light but we had two separate set of swells coming from different directions so I was super seasick the whole day long. Even Jason was green by the end. Blech. Not fun, but better than getting the tar beaten out of us.

Our reward was that we anchored in a West Coast favorite from last year, Columbia Cove. I have been dreaming of returning ever since last summer. I have awesome memories of glorious warm, sunny weather with lots of swimming and exploring the big, beautiful, super-remote beach. Upon our arrival the weather cleared enough for us to sort-of dry out all of our wet rain gear left over from our paddle up the Klaskish River. We enjoyed crackers and cheese on the foredeck while we watched four sea otters float around on their backs munching on their dinner. A couple hours later our buddy boat from Klaskish pulled in. I relaxed on the foredeck while they brought their dog to shore. Just as they started rowing back I looked up and saw a huge black bear trot along the shore. It was beautiful.

The following day we paddled into shore where we talked to a couple from the Netherlands who have spent the last ten years sailing 100,000 miles around the world. They were super hard-core, like the kind of sailors that just hang out at Cape Horn. For fun. For two years. When Jason asked where their favorite spot was, without hesitation they both said the Falklands. Like I said, hard core.

We parted ways and headed through the gorgeous, old-growth of Brooks Peninsula to a ginormous, wind-swept and weather-beaten beach. It was a different experience to be there in our fowlies instead of swim suits but it was still beautiful nonetheless. We walked over to a river and hiked up to a little waterfall and ate salmon berries. Back on the beach we sifted through Asian junk washed up on the shore, pretended to play Japanese drinking games with sake bottles we found and played on craggy rocks before heading back through the ancient forest to our kayaks. Along the way we gathered sea asparagus and arrow grass to add to a soup I was cooking for dinner. Yum.

When we got back to the boat I had it in my head that I needed a shower. The weather had been so cold so we hadn't been able to swim, and my hair felt so greasy I couldn't handle it any more, so it was time to go in. The air temperature was probably fifty degrees and the ocean was, as you might imagine, not warm, but I put on my bathing suit and, twice, I lowered myself into the water and dunked my head to get my hair wet, with all of the squeaking, shuddering noises you might imagine would accompany such activity. Then I stood on the swim step with my baking soda and vinegar and scrubbed my head. I used the solar shower (I swear the water was colder than the ocean) to rinse clean. By the time I finished I was shivering like crazy and my hands and feet were white and numb. that's desperation. Oh. I forgot to mention that during a crazed moment of wild pummeling between Sea Otter Cove and the Klaskish Basin our furnace broke off the wall so we no longer have heat. Brrrrrr.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Mount St. Patrick

Sea Otter Cove is a major reason why we decided to go around Vancouver Island again. Mount St. Patrick towers over the cove and Aaron had wanted to hike it since we were here last year. We found a trail on a map and made it our goal to make it to the top. Jason also just happened to have a conversation with a guy in Comox who had hiked it and gave him some tips on how to find the trailhead. So after four weeks in the camper van and seven weeks on the sailboat, the day had finally arrived for us to hike Mount St. Patrick. On Father's Day. Lucky Jason.

We paddled to shore and up the river at the end of the inlet. After a couple of false starts (which allowed me to gather some wild food *yay*) we finally found the trailhead. We pushed our way through thick bushes and tromped through gloppy mud following a trail in the middle of nowhere that was barely there, purely on faith that the ribbons we found tied on bushes and trees from time to time wouldn't lead us astray. I am so thankful we decided to wear uber-boots for this hike. Eventually the trail opened up a bit and then reared straight up. We huffed and puffed our way to the tree line and then slogged through deep mud until we reached the top. With 1300 foot elevation gain in 2.5 miles, it was an epic hike and the views were amazingly gorgeous. I love the rugged coastline here with waves crashing against craggy cliffs and sea stacks and we got a birds-eye view of it all.

On the way down we took a wrong turn that put us into even deeper mud. Pika stepped into a mud pit and started to sink. She looked at us with wild-googly eyes as she sank to her chest and then her chin slowly kissed the mud as she continued to flounder. Isaac came to her rescue and pulled her out of the mud with a satisfying slurp. Poor Isaac sunk in up to his knees and then Aaron was swallowed by the same hole. Pika was so cute after the sinking incident and would "air-swim" every time I lifted her over a mud puddle.

When we got back to the kayaks the tide had dropped considerably so we had to drag our kayaks through what was left of the river until it was deep enough to climb in. Isaac even pulled Jason like a sled dog through the water. We arrived back to the boat happy and tired. We decided that the thick bushes + deep mud + steep climb = the most epic and fun hike we have ever been on, which = Best Father's Day ever and worth all of the trouble to get to it.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

God's Pocket to Sea Otter Cove

After we said good-bye to Emma we started our sad drive back up the island. We spent the night in Courtenay where we had a lovely dinner on the patio of a river-side pub. The following morning I provisioned at a local natural food market before we drove the last leg to Port McNeill. Jason dropped Aaron and I off at the top of the dock in the rain and then drove up to Port Hardy to drop off the rental car. There were no dock carts available at the top of the dock so we filled two shopping carts with soggy groceries, bags and chihuahua, and rattled our way down to the boat. After I got everything put away I started on laundry next. It was the classic port day of lots of errands and getting the boat ready for the next big thing.

The following morning we set off early for God's Pocket, a tiny scuba diver and sea kayaker resort which was one of our favorite stops from last year. We anchored out in a little bay where humpback whales sometimes stop to spend the night. Apparently they are pretty noisy sleepers and God's Pocket guests occasionally complain to the staff about it. That's such a funny thing to think about. We are pretty sure we could handle a sleepless night with noisy humpback neighbors and hoped they would stop in for the night.

After I gathered some bull kelp to dry on our life lines, we paddled into shore and hiked to the top of a little mountain and then over to a rocky point where we gathered seaweed and barnacles for dinner. Meanwhile a couple of humpbacks cruised through the channel in front of us. Back at the boat I stir-fried everything up and grilled some salmon for a super delicious dinner.

Sadly no humpbacks joined us for a slumber party, so we awoke refreshed and ready to head over the infamous Nawiti Bar and the dreaded Cape Scott. This was a source of major stress for us last year but we made it through with no problems so we were much more relaxed this time. Jason had decided to try the lower route through the reefs and seaweed instead of going over the bar which can get a bit hairy. On the way out of Goletas Channel a Pacific Whitesided dolphin played in our bow wake before we reached open ocean. The seas were really choppy since we were a few hours before the tide changed, but nothing super scary. It seems like a good route to go to avoid the bar if you choose not to cross at the slack.

With some sloppy seas I was pretty sea sick on the way to Cape Scott. It was really chilly out so I was also super cold. The combination of being sea sick and cold made my body sort-of just shut down and I couldn't really keep my eyes open any longer so I headed below and crawled into bed where I soon fell asleep. I'm not a napper so this was a really weird experience for me. Apparently going around Cape Scott was a non-event. Jason and Isaac read and I slept right through it.

We entered Sea Otter Cove and tied up to one of the gargantuan fishing-boat-sized mooring balls for the night. We had the anchorage to ourselves for a couple of hours before another boat came in. They snagged the mooring ball next to ours and we asked them how their passage had been around Cape Scott. Due to engine trouble they they had hit the Nawitti Bar three hours late when the current was starting to ebb pretty strongly. They had radioed a navy boat which had just gone over the bar who reported back that it was fine. So they continued through and got the snot beaten out of them. It was so rough out there, with large standing and breaking waves, that it tore their kayak right off of the life lines on their boat. Yeesh! That sounds bad. I'm thankful we had such a mellow experience going through a few hours earlier.

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